What I Learned From Traveling The World For 11 Weeks With My Wife
We just got home, and I want to share what I learned from traveling the world for the last 11 weeks. My wife and I left home November 21 and arrived home February 7. A lot happened in that time, and there are definitely things we’d do differently. Here are some lessons learned along the way to make long-term traveling simpler the next time around.
Pack Less, Do Laundry More
First, we’d totally pack less. It’s easy to fill your suitcase up to the 50 lb / 23 kg limit, since that’s what the airline allows you to take. You’ll wind up over-packing. Instead, plan to do laundry. Washing underwear and socks in the hotel bathroom and hanging them to dry is really easy. Shirts and pants or any nice clothes take more effort, but you can find a laundromat. Also, when you find a cheap place to do laundry, do it. Even if you aren’t at the breaking point, do laundry. We passed up super cheap laundry one day, thinking we didn’t really need it. In a different country 3 days later, when we really did need it, we paid 3x more.
The other problem with packing your suitcase full at the start of a long trip is that you will acquire things along the way. We bought a Christmas present to bring home for my mother-in-law and presents for 2 nephews with birthdays coming up. Those had to go in my carry-on backpack for the next 5 weeks, since we couldn’t add anything to our checked bags. Doing it again, I’d factor in the weight of what I think we are likely to buy during the trip and add that at the beginning.
Buy The Things You Need Before You Need Them
Imagine arriving to a touristy beach town without sunblock. You’re going to pay a lot for it. Buy the things you need before you need them, because it’s usually cheaper elsewhere. Don’t wind up in “we need this now” with only 1 shop around. This applies to things like toiletries, batteries if your camera needs them, etc. For our flight home, we passed through Lima. We found out an hour before leaving for the airport that Peru requires not only a mask but also a face shield. We bought uncomfortable face shields that cost $15 each, because we didn’t have time to check our options. Plan ahead and buy when it’s cheaper.
Stay In 1 Season / Climate If You Can
You can also pack a lot less if you stay within 1 season. Here’s what I mean. We visited the beach in Mexico and packed flip-flops, swimsuits, and snorkels. From Mexico, we went to Turkey, and Cappadocia was super cold. We needed coats, hats, and gloves during the cold morning of our hot air balloon flight. Needing to pack for multiple climates meant bringing extra stuff for beach, cold, and in between. If we did it again, we’d stay within 1 climate / 1 type of season to reduce what things we needed to pack.
Don’t Book Anything Far In Advance
Especially during COVID travel, don’t book anything far in advance. It’s tempting when you see a good deal (and airlines have become more flexible), but booking a flight far in advance just increases the chances it will get changed or canceled. Now, anything you booked in line with that, such as other flights or excursions, will need to be changed. If you’re thinking about a long-term trip, plan 1 country or 1 week ahead. When you show up at passport control, be able to prove when/how you’re leaving that country. Nothing beyond that is worth booking, because it can & will change. Spending your vacation waiting on hold with the airline to discuss flight changes is annoying.
What I Learned From Traveling the World – Plan Around Holidays
Sometimes, going to a country for a big holiday is the whole reason for a trip. Other times, being there for a holiday completely ruins your trip. We learned a big lesson last year, being in Budapest for Christmas. Nearly all of the restaurants were closed, except for very expensive places right by hotels. Museums were closed, also. This year, we planned to spend Christmas in a place where December 25 wasn’t a holiday for them. We spent Christmas in Ethiopia, since they celebrate Christmas in January, so the restaurants and stores were all open. We didn’t experience a ghost town this way. To be honest, though, our Christmas turned out to be pretty boring because of this plan, because there were no decorations or festive spirits. Check what holidays might be happening during your visit, and figure out if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Print Your Documents, Maybe Duplicates
Depending on where you’re going, this is more or less important. In countries with less infrastructure or not as many tourists, don’t plan on just telling them where you’re staying / when you’re leaving. “You know every country requires these things be printed” from a border guard made me laugh. Most certainly every country doesn’t require it. If you’re going somewhere a little less traveled, print things. Maybe print 2 copies, so you have 1 to show on arrival and another to show on the way out. Usually, your hotel will print visas, copies of passports, and other essential documents like these for free.
Enjoy The Good Stuff When You Have It When Traveling The World
If you’re staying at a nice place, enjoy the features and make use of them. We stayed at some really nice hotels, and we also stayed at some places with weak showers and bad internet. If you’re the type of person whose hair needs a lot of care, take advantage of a good shower to lather-rinse-repeat-condition. Maybe the next place will have weak shower pressure or hot water that runs out quickly. It sounds corny, but we learned to enjoy the good things when we had them, knowing that some of the places in our itinerary would be unpredictable. Download those work emails, shave, condition your hair, have the hotel print documents, and whatever else you need to do before you lose access to it. Also, if those little bottles of toiletries in your hotel room are good, take them with you! If the toiletries at your next place suck (or your Airbnb doesn’t provide them), you’ll be glad you brought these.
Be Careful About Street Food And Tap Water
This is something everyone should check before traveling anywhere, and it’s worth repeating. Just because the locals are eating from a food cart at the side of the road doesn’t mean you should. They’ve been exposed to germs you haven’t. Check the sanitary conditions, whether the food is still piping hot, etc. If the foods aren’t cooked, be careful about eating things that could’ve been washed in dirty water, like a raw salad or fruits that you can’t peel.
That brings us to water. In some places, you shouldn’t even brush your teeth with the tap water. When we were in Liberia, they told us a few times to use bottled water even for brushing our teeth. We don’t have the immunity built up that locals do. This also applies to ice in your drink, whether it’s ice cubes or crushed in a blender for your daiquiri. If “bottled water only” is the rule, watch out for ice. What I learned from traveling is that ice is not your friend.
What I Learned From Traveling the World – Final Thoughts
This is what I learned from traveling the world with my wife for the past 11 weeks. There are definitely things we’d do differently if doing it again. Hopefully, these can help us for the future and might help others who are considering a long-term trip. Above all, flexibility is key on a long-term trip. What you thought the trip would look like before starting and what it looks like multiple weeks later won’t be the same. There will be surprises and changes. Decide in advance to be OK with that.